Portuguese workers awarded €1 million after suffering ‘appalling work conditions’
A group of Portuguese workers were housed in a work camp in Tipperary, Ireland, during the construction of the N7 motorway in Ireland.
The terrible conditions they suffered in 2007 and 2008 has been recognised by Ms Justice Carmel Stewart in Ireland’s High Court, who said the workers were “treated appallingly by their employers” and that “it beggars belief that their ordeal could have lasted for so long.”
Twenty Portuguese nationals claimed that they had been underpaid by three Portuguese companies, combined as the RAC Eire Partnership, which had the contract to construct a section of the N7 between Nenagh and Limerick.
The men also had claimed that deductions, taken by the employer from their wages for accommodation and laundry, were not reasonable or fair and their accommodation was not of a reasonable standard.
The workers, who had gone to Ireland to support themselves and their families, said their employers kept fraudulent records of working hours and that their accommodation was dire and excessively costly.
An €818,000 award for damages, which will rise to over €1 million when interest is added, was made against Rosas Construtores SA, Construções Gabriel AS Couto SA and Empresa De Construções Amandio Carvalho SA, all trading under the title RAC Contractors or RAC Eire Partnership.
The defendants were not represented in court, and the claims were uncontested.
The judge said the workers were “decent, hardworking individuals” who were “entirely blameless” and that the companies involved had, “fought them every step of the way.”
The employers were in breach of numerous labour laws including the Organisation of Working Time Act. The worker had worked far in excess of the hours noted on the defendants’ worksheets and they had been housed in a cramped prefab fire hazard, six to eight people in each room..
The judge said there was no drinkable water, the showers often did not work and there was a stink from the wastewater exit pipe.
“The washing facilities provided by the defendants were unfit for any living thing, least of all human beings,” the judge added, accepting also that the companies had made, “extortionate deductions from the worker’s wages,” which was meant to pay for food and accommodation, both of which was well below any decent standard.
In these circumstances, the judge awarded damages of €818,000 before interest, to be shared between the workers.